The Democratic Establishment: Why Bernie and Trump don’t hate each other

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Since he turned political nearly five years ago, Donald Trump’s Twitter attacks have given him an unprecedented amount of free media coverage. But in recent months, one man has found himself both immune from the president’s attacks and invisible in the mainstream media: Bernie Sanders.

But why? The simple answer, of course, is that Sanders has suspended his 2020 presidential campaign after several devastating losses to Joe Biden. Others seem to believe that Trump perceived Sanders as an easier opponent than Biden, so he refrained from attacking him beyond the occasional “Crazy Bernie” jab. Both of these answers are the ones pushed by a partisan machine I call the Democratic Party “establishment.” Such a machine is actually powerful enough to serve as the enemy of both Sanders and Trump.

By definition, the partisan nature of the Democratic establishment puts it at odds with the Republican President Trump. In the 2016 presidential election, Trump defeated the establishment’s candidate, Hillary Clinton. His victory came in large part due to his ability to convince the forgotten voters of Middle America that Clinton would simply continue the policies of President Barack Obama, who became an establishment figure after eight years in the White House. At the same time, Trump’s improbable success united conservatives against the establishment and overhauled the Republican Party, which is no longer the party of John McCain or Mitt Romney.

In a more recent four-year period, the Democratic establishment has shredded through dozens of presidential hopefuls. And for the second time in four years, it has resisted a furious campaign by Sanders. Though many Democratic elites may be thrilled about nominating the moderate Biden, their desire to squash Sanders proves they have learned nothing from American electoral history.

For several decades, every Democratic nominee favored by the establishment (Mondale, Dukakis, Gore, Kerry and Hillary Clinton 1.0 and 2.0) has lost badly. It has taken charismatic outsiders like Presidents Carter, Clinton and Obama to carry the torch of the Democratic Party. This is because of the widely-held establishment belief that an elite, which most voters deem responsible for mass dissatisfaction, best understands how to craft the people’s path forward.

Contrary to the establishment’s wishes, this flawed thinking has allowed populist candidates like Trump and Sanders (to a lesser degree) to gain traction. In many ways, Sanders actually became the Trump of the American left. He has proven unwilling to back down on a set of issues and infuriated the establishment. The difference? Republicans, in spite of some intense disagreements, have embraced Trump. The antiquated establishment on the other side of the aisle, now represented by the likes of Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi, has yet to catch on.

No one understands establishment shortcomings better than Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. And Trump has taken his foot off the “attack Bernie” gas pedal because the establishment already did his work for him. His view of Sanders follows a longstanding principle within conservative politics: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

For Trump, that “enemy” is none other than the threat posed by the establishment to his re-election. Sanders has two enemies: elites in his own party and conservative talking points, but Trump himself is not among them. Sanders is not necessarily an “easier” opponent for Trump, but if the establishment allowed a competitive election between Sanders and Trump to happen, it would be completely destroyed. The notion that Joe Biden is more “electable” is a direct talking point of the establishment, as a Biden victory would directly contradict more than 40 years of proven election results.

In what kind of wicked world can politicians like Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, seemingly polar opposites, share a common enemy? Well, we are living in that world today; that is, the world of the Democratic Party establishment.

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